One of the main culprits for weight gain is, of course, our hormones, which start to change right around the mid-30s and into the 40s. This change in hormones, less estrogen for women and less testosterone for men, cause the fat in our bodies fat to shift to the middle of the body while abandoning other areas of the body you could care less about. That's one reason you may get a little fluffier around the middle while other parts of you actually get smaller.
Difficulty sleeping can be a symptom of menopause, so it's not uncommon for women in their 40s to struggle with getting enough sleep. Unfortunately, this can also cause weight gain. "When you get less than seven hours of restful sleep, metabolic changes occur that can make it significantly harder to lose weight," says Palinksi-Wade. "The appetite hormone ghrelin is increased while leptin (which controls hunger cues) is reduced, triggering an increased desire to eat, especially for foods rich in fat and sugar. Insulin resistance increases, which can trigger the body to store fat."
“There are many eating patterns that can be used to lose weight,” says William Samuel Yancy, M.D., director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center and associate professor of medicine at Duke University. Many have evidence behind them, whether that’s keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, or anything else. Interestingly, there’s not as much research on what works for men as there is on women, but “for men, sometimes it’s as simple as shortening the time in which you are eating to an 8- to 10-hour window a day,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.N., consultant for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine for the Cleveland Clinic. Even something as straightforward as not eating after 6 PM can make a big difference—one of her male clients who lost 150 pounds found that to be especially helpful, she says.
As you reach mid-life, the pressures pile up. Just think of the typical stressors, like caring for kids and aging parents, facing financial burdens and dealing with the demands of a job. When you’re experiencing stress, your body responds by releasing the hormone cortisol. If your stress diminishes, your hormone levels return to normal, but if you’re experiencing ongoing stress from “adulting,” cortisol levels will remain high. This can set off a series of biological events that may lead to an increased appetite with more cravings and a propensity to store fat in your belly.
As you enter your forties, you are also entering perimenopause, when levels of your sex hormones progesterone and estrogen decline. Besides regulating your menstrual cycle and reproductive functions, these hormones also impact restful sleep and relaxation. A decrease in progesterone and estrogen levels may lead to sleep disturbances, restlessness, and insomnia.1 Because changes in sleep patterns have been associated with weight gain, sleepless nights may make weight loss increasingly difficult.2
Your muscles are important for bone density, strength, and overall health. However, your body starts to lose muscle as you age. Building muscle can increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories at rest. Muscle also takes up less space than fat, so you can feel leaner and toned as you increase your muscle mass. Good options to increase your muscle mass include light weightlifting, body weight exercises, and Pilates.

Additionally, attempts to lose weight on low-calorie diets can lead to even more lost muscle. Studies have found that regular resistance or strength training may be a better alternative than your daily runs to preserve and gain muscle — even when coupled with a low-calorie diet. Aerobic exercise is still important, just don’t make it your only form of activity.


Pay attention to what you are eating. Read labels and ensure your foods are organic, nutrient-dense, and anti-inflammatory. Avoid eating in front of the TV, while standing up, and when busy with other tasks. Keep a regular eating schedule. If you are craving something, check-in with yourself to see if you are truly hungry or just thirsty, stressed, or bored.
In your forties, your body may have an increasingly difficult time digesting carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain. Living a stressful life can lead to an increase in the stress-hormone called cortisol, which can make you more prone to gaining belly fat. Estrogen loss may also lead to fat redistribution in your body and cause belly fat gain.11

Additionally, attempts to lose weight on low-calorie diets can lead to even more lost muscle. Studies have found that regular resistance or strength training may be a better alternative than your daily runs to preserve and gain muscle — even when coupled with a low-calorie diet. Aerobic exercise is still important, just don’t make it your only form of activity.
What does that mean for you? That the weight loss process naturally becomes harder as you get older...that's just a fact and accepting it means you can stop punishing yourself or feeling ashamed about your body. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the things you can control: Your workouts, activity levels, diet, stress management, sleep management and, most important, your attitude.
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